Questions & Answers

It Hertz Just To Think About It!

A question was recently submitted for Dr. Bulb about how electrical power frequencies differ in countries.
A long time ago, before I, Dr. Bulb was born, a great electrician by the name of Nikola Tesla calculated the most effective electrical power frequency for home use. This frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). Through many experiments, Nikola came to the conclusion that 60Hz was the most effective frequency and shortly after the original world standard became a 60Hz system. After World War Two, Europe decided that 60Hz did not fit with their metric system quite as well as 50Hz would so they made a continent wide shift to a 50Hz system. To learn more about the Tesla and the history of the Hz system check out this opinionated article.

Tensions are high among lighting experts as to whether 60Hz or 50Hz is the best frequency. There are arguments that it costs less to create a lower frequency because the mechanical speed of the rotor would be slower for 50Hz than for 60Hz. While others argue that the transformers for 60Hz can be smaller and more effective, making them much less expensive. I, Dr. Bulb am not here to choose sides, but I will tell you that there is a significant difference between the two frequencies and that it is important to know which frequency your country is using.

There are several elements to keep in mind when working with electrical power frequencies. Whenever you are ordering commercial lighting from outside of the country, be sure to check if the fixture is designed for the correct frequency. A common problem for international light distributors is figuring out whether a fixture will function properly in the country of the receiving party.  For a list of countries with their frequencies visit the Wikipedia page.

So here is Dr. Bulb’s tip of the day: Always ask your lighting supplier if the fixture, whether it is a wall pack or a flood light, is compatible with your country’s electrical power frequency. If you forget to ask, it will most certainly be a hassle when the fixture arrives.

Have any questions for me, Dr. Bulb, about your country’s electrical lighting frequency or other lighting topics?  Post a comment below or shoot me a tweet @doctorbulb.

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